The Case Against Transitions
I admit it. We’ve heavily promoted the use of transitions before. We stand by it, too. After all, those sly little elements of writing do help inspire a particular smoothness to your piece, just like a good grammar checker does.
However, some very good writers out there rile against transitions completely, arguing that they’re frivolous and unnecessary. If you write with good rhythm, organize your ideas properly and present them intelligently – basically, if you write well enough – you can leave out transitions, without affecting the experience for your reader.
While we won’t go that far, there are times when we do recommend leaving them out. In particular, we suggest ditching transitions when you’re writing very short pieces, such as editorials, two-page essays or news items. Rather than out of disdain for the element, however, you should cut them out for brevity – transitions do tend to drag shorter pieces into word count territory without really adding much in terms of overall clarity.
Are the need for transitions greatly exaggerated by writing teachers and guidebooks? To some extent, probably. For the most part, though, it may be more likely due to the fact that so many people have repeated the advice that some have equated it to being as indispensable as adding a period to the end of your sentence.
Transitions are good, don’t get that twisted. However, it’s time you think of it as what it really is, that being an element of writing that “helps ensure” your words flow nicely. It’s like taking a free throw while going through the full textbook motions, rather than throwing up the ball with bad form – most people can shoot a good percentage doing the former, but Reggie Miller can throw it any way he wants and still beat your score.